NEW YORK — If the Red Sox remain this captivating into the summer, Wednesday night’s 1-0 victory against the Mets will be remembered as a signpost.
Playing with a nice pile of house money after winning the first game of the series, the Sox stared down the dragon that is Jacob deGrom.
They scored a run in the second inning against the best pitcher in baseball and made it stand up with a group of pitchers other teams gave away.
Nick Pivetta was serving time in Philadelphia’s alternate site last August when the Red Sox took him as a throw-in for relievers Heath Hembree and Brandon Workman.
He pitched five strong innings and in the third inning worked deGrom for 10 pitches before striking out. The entire Sox dugout was hollering as Pivetta fouled off six consecutive pitches.
“I was just trying to compete against him, do the best I could,” said Pivetta, who hadn’t had an at-bat in a major league game since 2019. “Just wear down his pitch count and do the best I can with the job that I have.”
DeGrom only pitched six innings, in part because Pivetta made him throw those extra pitches.
Garrett Whitlock was left off the 40-man roster by the Yankees and the Sox snapped him up in the Rule 5 draft in December.
The rookie entered the game in the sixth inning charged with protecting a one-run lead. Whitlock put two runners on that inning but stranded them before breezing through the seventh.
In less than a month, he’s earned the trust of manager Alex Cora.
“This guy, he’s a strike-throwing machine with great stuff,” Cora said. “Great composure. We’ve been talking about this kid from the get-go.”
Since the start of spring training, Whitlock has worked 22⅓ innings and struck out 30 with two walks. This from a pitcher the Yankees were willing to lose because he was coming off elbow surgery.
Adam Ottavino was a salary dump by the Yankees in January, the Red Sox taking on $8.1 million of his salary to get a prospect in return.
Those three pitchers shut out the Mets for eight innings, allowing two hits and striking out 12.
Their leading roles in what was a compelling game also speak to why the Red Sox hired Chaim Bloom to run baseball operations.
Pivetta was a cast-off in need of a fresh start. Whitlock was a product of good scouting and a willingness to use all avenues to find talent. Ottavino was a good short-term use of some spare payroll.
We’ve all marveled at how the Rays dig up hard-throwing pitchers and run them at you in waves. The Sox are starting to build their own conveyor belt.
Bloom also deserves credit for bringing back Cora to manage, warts and all. Plenty of people in his position would have pressed to make a fresh start with somebody new.
Cora won with a bunch of stars in 2018, invigorating a group that needed a push. Now he’s drawing up new lineups most every night and developing players to mix in with the established players.
If the Sox were going to compete this season, the belief was that they’d have to outslug teams, which they have. They lead the American League in runs. But they came to Citi Field and won two games with three runs.
The Sox had only four hits on Wednesday but found a way to win. Catcher Christian Vázquez, Cora said, was “amazing” all game. Second baseman Marwin Gonzalez made a leaping catch to steal a hit from Francisco Lindor in the eighth inning.
When Matt Barnes entered the game in the ninth inning, he struck out three batters on 12 pitches.
“This is a tight group,” Cora said. “We’ve been saying that all along. We feel we have a good baseball team. Obviously we still have to get better. But it feels great.”
Cora said there’s something special about winning close, well-pitched games.
He’s right about that. Those are the kind of games you need to win in October.